Finished watching City Hunter on the second week of August, but I couldn’t gather all thoughts to write a summary or comment about it to do it justice. It’s been around three weeks since… Better late than never, right?
I guess this’ll be short, though… let’s see! Beware: it’s LONG!
In the nutshell, City Hunter tells a story of vengeance Jin-pyo (Kim Sang-joong) has plotted ever since he witnessed his fellow soldiers shot death by the country they’re sworn to protect. He is the sole survivor of the ’83 incident as Mu-yeol covered for him, literally. The betrayal deeply cut his soul as all 21 of them are later declared “missing” and their identities being wiped clean from the record; he then avows to claim their lives back.
To actualize this ultimate dream, he takes Mu-yeol’s son away from his mother, Kyung-hee, and grooms him in preparation of the revenge. The targets are five high-ranking government officials (referred to as Council of Five) who covertly sent those soldiers away to ambushed N. Korea for the terrorism attack S. Korea had suffered earlier. Yet, it was later mutually agreed not to retaliate. The Council of Five (one of them seems to be a close acquaintance of Jin-pyo and Mu-yeol) then decided to sacrifice those special-agent forces in order to cover for their secret mission. They also make an agreement not to ever disclose this fact.
Jin-pyo raises Yoon-sung (Lee Min-ho) harshly and rigorously. Staying in Golden Triangle for years, they sell drugs to finance their life; by then, Jin-pyo has transformed into a cold-blooded man who shoots insubordinates without a second-thought. It is thus a relief to see Poo-chai (Yoon-sung’s Thai name) be able to maintain his playful, unlawful, and mischievous self despite his father’s upbringing; he grows up to be a young man with heart.
During one of his saunters, Poo-chai’s ear catches a conversation spoken in Korean. Out of curiosity of meeting the first Korean, he tracks the voice down and ends up saving a man who is in the brink of being tortured due to uncleared debt, Shik-joong Ahjussi (Kim Sang-ho). However, the wrestling doesn’t end there. Like any other gangster in the world, they won’t accept defeat and plan scaredy-cat revenge: come in large numbers, armed.
Poo-chai is well-trained and swift-footed that he manages to duck any bullets aimed at him; unfortunately, the event kills his foster-mother and costs Jin-pyo his leg while trying to save him. This shakes the hell out of him. Yet, only until this incident does Jin-pyo spill the beans that he is not Poo-chai’s real father and feeds him on the details of why they end up living away from Korea. He however still keeps the whereabouts of Kyung-hee.
They take no time gearing up for hunting down the Council of Five: Yoon-sung to study in the States, take on new identity, forget his life in GT, and trust and love no one. While Jin-pyo’s ultimate dream is about to begin, Yoon-sung’s dream is to live a normal and happy live with dad after everything ends.
From the dark, sullen mood and tone of the first episode, I expected the rest of the drama to follow this standard. Usually by watching the first installment, one’d decide whether or not to follow a series. Thus, I took first episodes as the IT factor to capture or break the viewers’ hearts. After lots of drama-dramas I’ve watched recently, I am happy with City Hunter Episode 1. I’d imagined an enjoyable though nerve-breaking journey ahead until episode 20, yet…
Thereafter, now-MIT-graduate Yoon-sung enters Korea and works in Blue House where he first comes into contact with Mr. President, though oblivious to his former relation to Jin-pyo and Mu-yeol (the ’83 incident). For some reason, Jin-pyo keeps him under radar, only disclosing the identity of their first target, Senator Lee Kyung-wan (he himself doesn’t know who the other three members are). Yoon-sung and Mr. President grow a liking in each other, the more after discovering that they share many similarities between them.
Throughout the series, Yoon-sung hunts down one target a time, digging into the information of the next person in line from the current target. Jin-pyo initially leaves the mission on Yoon-sung’s hand, but decides against it as they have a dispute as to how to punish them properly. Yoon-sung’s idea of revenge is to bring them to justice by turning them over to Prosecutor Young-ju (Lee Joon-hyuk) – show ’em that living is more painful than death. Conversely, Jin-pyo simply wishes them dead – shoot a bullet through the heart like they did the soldiers. Agree to disagree, they concord that whoever gets a hold of the target(s) first will have the final word. So, it’s become dad vs. son.
It’s much more exciting and unpredictable that way, but of course I rooted for Yoon-sung. I agree with what he says: that blood-for-blood revenge will get them nowhere. The cycle of hatred will only regenerate that way: it would create other fatherless Yoon-sungs, which in turn would hunt them down to retaliate.
As the members of Council of Five’s corruptive acts being unearthed and themselves brought to justice, the unknown hero earns himself a name: City Hunter.
Along the way Yoon-sung often double-crosses dad in order to get things done his way, Jin-pyo gets himself a sidekick to counteract Yoon-sung; he won’t back down even if that means harming Yoon-sung. That’s how far his mission brings him. It’s somehow gotten so off the track that Yoon-sung questions if this really to avenge those soldiers’ death. Well, I did too.
Besides all City Hunter routines, Yoon-sung has Young-ju tailing behind him as he is trying to discover and catch the outlawed City Hunter regardless how useful he has been to the police force. He has long suspected Yoon-sung but has difficulties finding concrete evidence to buckle him up. (This part together with many other scenes involving him or relating to the revenge story-plot gave me some references to Maou.) What’s more, Yoon-sung has a second job of looking after of Kim Nana (Park Min-young) as per Ahjusshi request. The reason has not been revealed to him yet, but he willingly does it anyway. Her father has been in comatose state for 10 years due to a certain car-crash but she’s unwilling to give up medication just yet. He helps her pay the hospital bills, they both work in Blue House under different departments, and he moves into her house after he purchases the house to avoid her being homeless – well, that’s just a lame reason to cohabit!
I am not an anti-fan of romance, neither did I not see it coming, yet… I didn’t expect it to take up that much screen time. Aforementioned, weighing from the premiere, I expected full-action, less-romance, if any. So I was surprised upon realization that the tone has become lighter, especially when romance takes a full bloom. What was an action-suspense series has become an action-drama. The stern Yoon-sung has mellowed out ever since his contact with Nana, and afterwards Kyung-hee. Luckily he doesn’t forget his main goal like Nana (*uhuk!*scriptwriter*uhuk!*) does her father.
I didn’t expect one target down every one-or-two episodes (it may seem so easy that way), nor did I expect City Hunter to succeed every single time (that’s too good to be true). But as Yoon-sung spends so much time on a target did I start to worry that we wouldn’t have enough time for the most anticipated target: Mr. President – it was nearing the final episode and we weren’t done with Target #4 yet.
[Ending discussion ahead. Skip the next three paragraphs to avoid any unsolicited spoiler.]
The ending is no way ambiguous, thus I was quite surprised to see many people thought the otherwise. Yes, the penultimate scene MIGHT give off the wrong impression, but the last scene really sealed it all off. (Albeit it was really WTH – lasted so briefly before the end credit scrolled up.) Yeah, the epilogue is a weak closure for the series with too many unnecessary moments. I guess only until then did PD finally realize that they’d forgotten all about Nana’s father. Who’s to blame when they’ve focused so much on City Hunter’s double-job, love interest, and family issues? I actually couldn’t care less about Nana’s father as he contributes nothing to the plot, yet ever since that-hospital-scene-where-Nana-took-refuge-in I’ve been wondering what happened to him. So, at the end PD decided to let him pass on – and Nana doesn’t look remorseful either.
I really refrained myself from being petty-picky about (visual) details and tried to just swallow what’s being shoved in front of my eyes. Otherwise I’d be complaining that “oh, the face is bloody in this scene, but not on that scene!”, Nana is too reckless to be a guard (kidnapped twice, easily unarmed and pushed aside), etc. Although I cringed at Jin-pyo extreme callosity while repeatedly hoped Yoon-sung could penetrate and melt his heart a bit, I withheld. But I really couldn’t take it when Mr. President doesn’t receive his fair share. He might be the whitest amongst his associates, but he isn’t completely innocent either. The birth secret is one, he being corrupt is two – regardless of his reason. I didn’t see the birth secret coming, but I don’t think it ups the tension much either. And yup! Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Lastly, since the beginning I felt that it’s nearly impossible to expect a happy ending with this kind of genre. Bloodshed would not be rewarded with happiness in life. Superheroes can never save everyone’s dear to them; thus, I speculated that it’d be either Ahjusshi or Nana. Ahjusshi because Yoon-sung treats him so dearly; Nana because, well, she’s City Hunter’s love interest, who is bound to be kidnapped and such to get to the elusive City Hunter. Furthermore, those nightmares Yoon-sung’s having – is it a premonition in any kind? This thought kept me on the edge of my seat every time either of them is away from Yoon-sung or in danger – I kept thinking, “Is this is? Is this it…??” I was too focused on those two’s security that my heart broke into pieces when someone else (or two) sacrifices their lives for City Hunter. Yeah, well…
[End of possible spoilers]
The climax was heart-stopping, nerve-breaking, and gut-wretching. I was glad it was – been itching to figure out how PD handled the final showdown.
To be honest, there are times where I found myself bored in the middle of an episode (especially the middle ones when romance was more dominant), only to be saved by the gripping last 5 to 10 minutes before the cliffhanger(s) – oh, I love the ending song(s)! I liked City Hunter, but wasn’t in love with it. I enjoyed the roller-coaster ride of angst, love, hatred, and guilt feelings, but whether or not I’d want to rewatch it remains a mystery: maybe yes, maybe no; maybe rain, maybe snow; I don’t know (it’s the signature saying of my friend’s lecturer xp).
One thing for sure: City Hunter is well-acted with Kim Sang-joong being the strongest cast. I’ve enjoyed solid performances from the male leads, whilst the female counterparts were mediocre
at best. Lee Min-ho is hot as ever (although his hotness wasn’t enough to make me sit through Personal Taste). I am definitely not biased, but I don’t understand people who bash on his acting front. If his is bad, I don’t know which actors are considered good.
City Hunter rating: 4/5*
Director: Jin Hyuk
Production: SBS, 2011
Cast: Lee Min-ho, Kim Sang-joong, Lee Joon-hyuk, Park Min-young, Kim Sang-ho
Genre: K-drama, Action, Suspense, Romance (20 Episodes)
*) I personally thought it’d receive higher rating than merely four stars, but I guess that’s what happened when you hang your expectation too high: it tends to disappoint you. Like what I’ve written previously, “The higher the expectation, the bigger the disappointment.”
I won’t lie; City Hunter is a good action-drama. Not great, but worthy. Neither is it a disappointment. Just sayin’ that it wasn’t nearly as good as anticipated. I feared that all the rave reviews I’d read about it (some rated it 9-10/10 o.O) would somehow affect my evaluation, but I managed to stay snarky in my little own way… I guess? xp
I rarely give out four stars anyway. So, be happy that City Hunter makes it! =)